Karen Sargent creates characters whose imperfect faith collides with real-life conflicts, taking readers on a journey through grace and redemption to discover enduring hope. A romantic element is woven within each story. In addition to writing inspirational novels, she blogs at The MOM Journey, where moms aren't perfect and that's perfectly okay. Her writing has also been featured in Guidepost’s Angels on Earth magazine. When she's not writing, Karen teaches high school and college English and resides in the beautiful Arcadia Valley with her husband and two daughters.
Check out the interview HERE.
We all know the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But isn’t that exactly what we do? Long before I signed with my publisher, I had a vision for my book cover. I also had a former student, Kinsley, who is a graphic artist. So with my contract in hand and pen poised to sign, I asked my publisher if Kinsley could submit a book cover for consideration. The publisher reminded me an in-house designer would be assigned to my book, but then they surprised me and agreed to “consider” an outside submission.
After I shared my vision with Kinsley, I discovered graphic design is an art—not magic—that required content. I needed a little blonde girl to model, a professional photoshoot, and a budget. I didn’t know a little girl who was the right age with the right color hair with the right “look,” and my book budget was already in the red. So I convinced myself the publisher’s cover design would be fine. Fine.
But disappointment cast a shadow over me for weeks as I continued to dream about my vision. Finally told myself, “Get over it.” That same night as I crawled into bed, a name popped into my thoughts. Briar. I hadn’t seen Briar since she was a baby. I calculated. She would be about four. Was her hair blonde like her big sister’s was when she was little? Did she have curls?
The next morning I texted Briar’s mom, Ashley, who is also a former student and who now teaches in the same school district as me: “I have a strange question. Is Briar’s hair blonde and curly?” Ashley texted back a picture. Perfect! I explained what I needed and that I’d pay for the photoshoot as well as for a little white dress for Briar to wear. Ashley texted back: “No need to pay. We have family pictures scheduled for tomorrow with Heidi.”
Tomorrow! With Heidi, the same photographer I had planned to hire! I immediately contacted Heidi to describe my vision. She turned my excitement into her own and said, “I know exactly what you want.”
But she didn’t. The next afternoon when Heidi sent me the photo, it wasn’t what I had envisioned at all. It was 100 times better! I had wanted a little girl standing in a field with butterflies swarming toward her. Instead, Heidi snapped this sweet picture of Briar and then placed a butterfly graphic in her hands. Although she had taken several shots, this is the only one she sent me because she knew—and so did I—this was the one!
And as soon as Kinsley saw it, she knew it, too. She put her amazing talent to work and created the final masterpiece. I loved the cover so much…we all loved the cover…but would the publisher?
On the day the publishing team met to accept or reject our design, I checked my email every three minutes. Finally the email arrived. I held my breath as I clicked it open and read the final decision: “This cover captures the very essence of the story.”
I’m sure a cover by the in-house designer would have been fine…even fabulous. But this, this is a “work of heart” because so many people are a part of it—former students, colleagues, friends. I hope potential readers judge my book by its cover!
Although I don’t write romances, a strong romantic thread runs through every story I create because I’m a romantic at heart. On the rare occasion when I can pop a movie into the Blu-Ray, chances are the movie is one of these:
1. This story was inspired by the death of my mother-in-law, who died suddenly and too soon at 61. I wondered, “What if a mother is taken from her family before she is ready to go?” The answer became Waiting for Butterflies.
2. My protagonist is a “lingering spirit,” which some Christian readers might question. After all, we go to Heaven when we die. But…what if God decided to allow a person (like Maggie) to return for some reason? Does the Bible clearly state that is not possible…if God wanted to allow it? I couldn’t find a clear answer, which left just enough wiggle room for my imagination to play.
3. It took me 11 years to decide to write Waiting for Butterflies. When I finally started, writing was easy because I had been imagining the story for so long, and it was fun to finally meet the characters who had been living in my head.
4. The original title of the book was Her Children Shall Rise Up, in reference to Proverbs 31. Then I saw a quote on a journal in a bookstore that inspired the new title. Waiting for Butterflies adds a layer of symbolism and meaning, and without it, the story would not have been the same.
5. I enjoyed naming the minor characters because I borrowed a first name or a last name from people I know. However, the characters have their own identities and personalities. I can’t wait to see if my friends, family, or former students recognize my “shout out” to them!
6. Some of the best twists in the story weren’t planned. I would be busy with something other than writing, and then an idea would suddenly pop into my head. It was always such a surprise!
7. Although it’s not the usual practice, my publisher agreed to let me submit a cover for consideration. I shared my vision with a photographer friend of mine, which inspired her even-better vision. She snapped the photo of the adorable cover model, who is the daughter of a former student. Then I sent the photo to another former student who worked her graphic art magic. I call my cover “a work of heart.” (By the way, the publisher loved it!)
8. My husband hasn’t read my book and probably never will since it’s women’s fiction, unless an ESPN sportscaster recommends it on TV. However, nobody is more proud of my book than he is.
9. People often ask if the characters in my book are similar to my family. In some ways, yes. In many ways, no. Maggie’s fear of losing a child—or being taken from her family while they still need her—are my deepest fears. Sam’s occupation and the sense of responsibility he feels to protect his family are similar to my husband’s. Rachel is an eclectic mix of my daughters—Randi’s creativity, Kelli’s perfectionism—colored by my experience with teens in crisis that I’ve encountered throughout 23 years of teaching high school students. Otherwise, the characters have their own identities, virtues, and flaws.
10. I thought I’d feel like an author once I held Waiting for Butterflies in my hand. But it doesn’t feel like my book. It just feels like I’m holding a book—someone else’s book. (I still can’t believe it.)
Introducing Maggie & Sam
“What are you writing?”
She clasped the journal before tucking it into the side table drawer.
“Oh, just…stuff. You know—”
“Stuff? I’ll never get that, Mags. When something bothers you, you write. When something bothers me, I need to hit golf balls or chop wood, work through it.” Sam grabbed her hands and pulled her to him.
“Yes, that’s what you always say.” Her smile was gentle. “But it’s not just writing, remember? It’s praying, too.”
“Yeah, I don’t get that either. But that’s okay. Praying about a problem is your department; doing something about a problem, that’s my department.”
Sam’s arms encircled her waist and her body settled into his. His familiar scent was therapy.
“This will be a partner project.”
In most classes those words signaled doom for Rachel, but not science, the only class she shared with her best friend. Quickly she scanned the faces in the lab until she locked eyes with Kristen, sealing their partnership.
Kristen wrinkled her nose. “You’re such a nerd.”
Rachel pushed her elbow into her friend. “I know.” And she did know; somehow she was different. In the hallway, in the classroom, in the cafeteria, she looked normal, just like everyone else. But there was something intangible, something she couldn’t verbalize, that made her peculiar, peculiar in a way Kristen tolerated and some called freaky. Only her mother celebrated her uniqueness, and her words--creative, brilliant, gifted—drowned out the snickers that sometimes followed Rachel in the halls.
“Okay, Lambie, you get to sleep up here by my pillow next to Horsey.” She put her mouth against Lambie’s ear, and her voice lowered to a raspy whisper. “Because you’re my favorite.” Then she picked up a bear and placed him on the other side of her pillow. “Teddy, you go right here. And Baby, I’ll hold you.” She wrapped her arm around a stuffed doll wearing a diaper and a blue bonnet. Then she patted the edge of her bed and addressed them all. “We’ll save this place for Mommy. She can lay with us when she gets tired.”
Olivia moved her stuffed lamb closer on the pillow. “She said maybe she saw Heaven, but she isn’t sure.” She turned to face Sam. “Mommy said it’s gonna be beautiful.”
Hairs tingled on the back of his neck. Olivia’s imagination was remarkable, tempting even him to get caught up in her make-believe. But this had to end. “Honey, you know, people who believe in Heaven think that’s where they go when they die…And, your mom, well, if she were to see Heaven, it would mean she would have to die.”
“She did die, Daddy.” Her blue eyes were wide and honest.
What was going on in Olivia’s little mind? How could he help her sort this out? “Well, if you know Mommy died, why do you keep pretending she’s still here?” It was a gentle question, but he couldn’t mask the accusation in his voice.
“I’m not pretending. She is here.” Olivia squeezed her fists as she hugged her doll tighter. “She died. She just didn’t go away. She doesn’t know why.”
Author Karen Sargent has written a stunning and emotionally engaging novel in Waiting for Butterflies. This story deals with raw emotions, dealing with grief, pain, loss, sorrow, healing, love, joy, and family bonds. The family dynamics in this story are absolutely beautiful. Readers will immediately fall in love with the family. And the children characters are fantastic. Bringing a whole new dynamic to this amazing story. Sargent brings to life real-to-life feelings that readers will easily understand and relate to. This is a powerful and inspiring novel that readers are not going to want to miss.
Genre: contemporary, romance, Christian, ghost story
Publisher: Walrus Publishing
Publication date: April 4, 2017
Number of pages: 296
Content Rating: PG
Book Rating: 5 stars
A review copy of this book was provided by the author via SLB Tours. A review was not required and all views and opinions expressed are my own.
Book Launch Giveaway on the Author's Website
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